March 25 is no longer just a day of commemoration for the victims of the first onslaught of Pakistani military in 1971. Known as “Kaalratri,” the night of March 25 is now officially “National Genocide Day.”
Bangladesh Awami League, being the party at the forefront of our Liberation War, feels that this day has to be institutionalised with a parliamentary approval. One might ask, considering wide awareness of Kaalratri, whether this was necessary.
It was indeed necessary, if not vital, to the survival of our history.
Our past experience with keeping history as it is is a bitter one.
Due to the manner in which this nation was ruled from 1975 till 1991, and again from 2001 to 2006, a parliamentary motion for recognition of the day was much needed.
Looking back, not even too far back, we have seen people like Nizami-Mujahid-Saka awarded cabinet ministry between 2001 to 2006 and even before.
These individuals had always been known as collaborators. They were self-confessed war criminals, having taken part actively in the massacre of 1971.
Shamelessly they defied the spirit of our War of Independence, our constitution, our institutions, our civil society, and enjoyed everything this nation had to offer to its rulers, despite not believing in its very right to self-determination and freedom.
Openly they have mocked our history, our sacrifice, and our struggle. And yet, a political party accommodated these individuals, rewarded them, and made them not only powerful policy-makers but also gave them key executive powers.
That party is none other than the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which now and then mentions its founders’ involvement in our Liberation War, but that’s where its commitment to the spirit of our independence ends.
Awami League, therefore, cannot just end its commitment to merely trying, convicting, and punishing these war criminals.
It has an obligation to institutionalise the history of the brutal genocide for awareness of the generations to come. The threat to this country’s history, its secular fabric, and its democratic polity, is a real one.
If not pro-actively institutionalised, we will not be surprised if, in the very near future, BNP and its allies write this day off from our very history, as they had done with many historic facts.
The manner with which they have conducted themselves in the past, and even now, we have reason to fear the worst. They are able to do anything and everything for petty political gain.
The threat to this country’s history, its secular fabric, and its democratic polity, is a real one
Looking at their response to the recent counter-terrorism operations and the government’s tough response to religious extremists, we have reason to worry.
They are calling the government response “staged drama.” Setting aside the political rhetoric, or even the reality of “opposition politics,” the tone they are speaking in is a tone of appeasement, and of tacit moral support to extremists.
And for this we have reason to be worried.
This political party, for their gain, have compromised so much in the past, even contributing to the rise of religion-based politics, an ultra-right fanatic mainstream that now dares to call for a Taliban-style state.
For this very reason, we, as a political party, feel the need to institutionalise the history of our long road to freedom from which our new generation can take inspiration.
Absence of a secular political history, loss of memory of our past national glory, and the history of oppression at the hands of the Pakistani army and its collaborators would lead our new generation into disillusionment.
And a lost, aimless generation is an easy prey for extremists.
So we have the responsibility to retain and protect our national history of sacrifice.
BNP’s recent remarks and political stances do not give us any reason to believe they have changed.
In their last stint in powe,r they empowered religious conservatives, rewarded war criminals, colluded with international crime syndicates, persecuted progressive forces, and destroyed our institutions.
Today’s Hefazat is a result of their past sins. Today’s JMB is the product of their past appeasement. Let us not forget that.
In addition to their past misdeeds, if we look into what they are saying and doing now, we have every reason to worry.
As the political party that led this nation into freedom, we have a responsibility, and we will do everything within our capacity to stop our country from falling into the hands of the power-hungry elite that would trade everything without thinking of the consequences.
We cannot take the risk of our country turning into another Pakistan.
Mohibul Hassan Chowdhoury is an Organising Secretary of Central Executive Committee of Bangladesh Awami League. A graduate of London School of Economics, Mohibul is also an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. He is a partner of a Dhaka based law firm The Legal Circle.